2018 — Report

Report of the Reunion May 2018 published 17th Sept 2018


Sorry for the long delay since my last newsletter, but I felt that I had to wait until I had a bit more information about the development of the Hall.  Firstly though, before a report about the Hall, I should give a brief report on the last Reunion in May.

The Reunion meal itself was at capacity, with many other ex students joining us in the Park for more informal meet-ups.  Two groups celebrated their 50th and 40th years of entering the Bretton community and because of this, had larger numbers attending. In the Saturday morning session, two groups joined Richard Flowerday and myself for guided walks and entry to the Bretton Archive, where Anna Bowman welcomed us and gave a short talk to each group.   During the afternoon, again we had a talk as part of the NAEA Annual Lecture, by portrait artist Tom Woods.  Tom used to lecture at Bretton and runs the Art Academy at Redbrick Mill in Batley.   Images from the day are posed on the link at the side

Next year, the Reunion will take place on Saturday the 11th May, with the usual format again.  It was hoped that the Hall would be much further on by then, but, as my report below states, things are delayed.  Hopefully, the NAEA Annual lecture will given by John Atkinson and introduced by ex Principal John Taylor.  John Atkinson was a lecturer/tutor in the 80s and 90s and more recently he co-organised the replica Bretton scarves that have delighted 200 people.  The evening meal has again been booked in the restaurant at the Sculpture Park.  Any large groups celebration a particular anniversary, should make themselves known at an early stage to give it some further promotion.

Report about the Hall development
Part of the reason for my delay in writing this report, was my reaction to Mark Finch’s report at the afternoon session. It wasn’t at all what he said, it was what he didn’t say. Until Mark’s update, I had it in my head that the work in the Hall would be substantially completed by Christmas of this year.  Mark’s update had work starting next year, 2019.  My heart sank, as did a number of the Alumni seated in the talk, some of whom have kept an eye on developments.  I have to say that there was absolutely no hint that Rushbond had ceased working on the project, or that something was potentially amiss.  I started having a look at the submission to planning modifications submitted to the Council for approval.  The applications of detailed plans were still going in, but not at the same rate as previous ones.  Then, the ‘chatter on the Facebook pages and blogs started to be more critical and pessimistic, with one particular article from a guy who sounded like he knew what he was talking about, and putting forward some very reasonable arguments.  At this point, I had a ‘think’ about the apparent lack of progress and did some more research.  In the end, I decided to write to Mark Finch and copy him into the article from the critic, with my comments about other things I had heard.  I got an immediate response suggesting a meeting between myself, Mark, and Jonathan Maud, the owner of Rushbond.  To fix a diary date proved difficult, but there was one day when I was on my way back from a Hockey match and both Mark and Jonathan were also available.  The timing was too short to get everybody together, so I just asked Richard Flowerday to attend, as he is on site almost every week guiding around the Park and available that day.  Richard quickly got the committee room at the Sculpture Park organised and that is where we met.

To conclude, the discussion went as follows.
Mark and Jonathan were keen to stress that they were still as keen as ever to complete the project, but some things had changed and other things had been delayed.
The main change was that they have, at long last, found a hotel operator who could understand and agree with their philosophy for the hotel and could bring this about in a commercial way.   Disclosure of the business concerned at this stage is still confidential.
The other development that has been delayed is the actual internal works for the hotel, which will still be delivered by a Dutch company.  It has to be understood that before work can start, all aspects of detailed planning have to be passed, both by the local authority and, Historic England.  Now that a hotel operator has been appointed, this too has added extra consultations, making the whole project time scale elongated.

To say that I am sad not to be getting into the Hall this next year is an understatement, as it is with Richard, but at least we are now convinced that it is all progressing positively, albeit slowly.  I am also pretty sure that by the time of the next Reunion, the reports will be in the detailed final stages.  We may, or may not, get into the Hall to take a look, but I am certainly going to ask again in March time.   We will need to reassure the Hall security that we are going to behave ourselves and not go wandering off to our ‘special places’, like one lady did last time, but stick with the group.   A bunch of ex Bretton students in a group is like trying to herd of cats.

Anyway, I hope to see as many of you as possible at the next reunion in May,

Alan Parker